Thursday, 26 November 2015

Death of an Old Lady

No. Not a famous person. A ship. A ship that started its life as a completely new approach to transport to the Isle of Lewis from the Scottish mainland: a roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry. I arrived on the Island not long after she did. I never experienced the need to crane the car onto and off the ferry and travel from Mallaig up the Minch for hours on the original Loch Seaforth. That ship was MV Suilvan.

Photo from Flickr by Mark Nicolson of the Silvan crossing The Minch
I have many many memories of this wonderful boat. I say 'wonderfull' because she was an innovation, a great sea-boat (according to those who sailed her) but a dreadful corkscrewing tub to her critics. She operated on the route until she was replaced by MV Isle of Lewis in 1995.

I have many many stories of journeys on her: largely because she sailed in almost any weather and one had to be pretty hardy to endure the worst of journeys which occasionally doubled the usual 3h 45 m journey time.

The time when a colleague (who hides behind the nom de plume of Marcel) and I were standing on the top deck abaft the bridge (hidden by the wave above) and I went inside to use the toilet and came out to find him gone. After an hour he appeared in the 'lounge' still soaked to the skin from a wave that had gone over the top of the bridge just as I went inside.  On another occasion a colleague and I were almost alone as passengers returning from Ullapool when a massive wave came down the Minch hitting the vessel side on and scaring the very living daylights (it's a family blog!) out of us. They are the mild memories - the others would take too long to recount.

After leaving service in Scotland she went to New Zealand and saw service across the Cook Strait between North Island and South Island as a cattle boat. In 2004 she went to Fiji.

Two days ago she went to the bottom of the sea in Suva Harbour, Fiji. There was no loss of life.

R. I. P.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


In the supermarket recently I met someone whom I know. In fact in Stornoway it is impossible not to meet someone one knows but that's another matter. She knows me well enough to know that I have been spending a lot of time recently working at, or ferrying people to and from,  the house my son, Gaz, is building 15 miles away from where I live. Add to that the fact that I've been away in Glasgow and am also having work done at my own house and have a number of other things happening at the moment and my time has been pretty well occupied.

"Well, it will fill in the long winter days for you and they won't drag."

Now here's the thing. Never in my life since I was a child can I ever recall time 'dragging'. In fact I've never had enough time in my life to achieve all that I want to achieve. The fact that I always have too many things on the go at any one time and am not the fastest thinker on the planet when it comes to writing and so on probably contributes to what appears to be a lack of time.

So far I have used 'I' ten times but the thing is it's not really about 'I', it's about lifestyle and modern life and, so far as I can see with many friends it is a shared situation. 

After all what is 'real life'? Those of us who are retired fill our lives in many and varied ways. Some fellow bloggers demonstrate that: YP walks miles, takes photos and blogs; Adrian walks miles, crawls around in murky places and takes photos of landscapes and bugs and fungi and anything else that takes his fancy and then spends hours working out how to find new ways to play with his photographs; Frances writes, campaigns and falls off her horse. I could go on and I realise that many of the blogs I follow are not written by 'retirees' and I know that those I have mentioned have lots of life outwith the bits that I've mentioned.

The last few months have made me wonder, though, what actually defines the reality of having a busy life in retirement. I know people who are members of societies; people who campaign; people who work for charitable causes; people who spend much time looking after grandchildren.

I sometimes feel ashamed that I do none of those things and yet I still feel that I have a 'real' life. 

Anyway as a result of my temporary journey into the real life of 'working' my 'other real life' in Blogland is getting neglected. Hopefully that situation will soon be remedied and, as Arnie said "I'll be back.".

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

It's That Time Again

This year seems to have been unbelievably and very enjoyably busy.  Recently I've been helping my son, Gaz, who is having a house built on the Island and who is doing some of the work himself which has it's difficulties for someone who is away sailing around the world for a living two months out of every four. This is, and has for several generations been, a very common situation for the men on this Island.

Anyway we had Sunday off and I decided that it was time to make the first two of the six Christmas cakes I make. It's a very rewarding experience and it starts the day before when the fruit is soaked in brandy overnight. It then takes most off the following day because they are baked for a long time at a low heat.

They might not look very appealing now but after six weeks of being fed with brandy and then iced they should be quite edible.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Summer Time is Over

Here but started There. So instead of being 11 hours ahead of Scotland, New Zealand is now 13 hours ahead. This morning should have been much lighter but I was rather upset to realise that it was still dark enough to had to put the lights on when I got up.

So it's alter the clocks morning. I used to have a list of them. Then I realised that many of the devices in the house alter their time automatically these days. The computers, cellphones, televisions, radios, phones, central heating, weather station, radio controlled clocks and probably other things I've forgotten about or take for granted all change automatically. That just leaves me with about six 'ordinary' clocks and my watches to alter manually. 

It's a far cry from my youth when there was the living room and dining room clocks and individual watches to be wound and altered and that was it. Well apart from my early childhood when there was a weights driven clock in my bedroom (which wasn't as ornate as the one on the left).

Thinking about it our timepieces then were not only fewer in number but they were a lot greener: no batteries and they were repairable (and, I have to admit, far less reliable).